Wayne Rooney scored his 200th Manchester United goal as the Red Devils swept aside Bayer Leverkusen in a 4-2 win at Old Trafford.
After Rooney opened the scoring, Simon Rolfes grabbed an equaliser early on in the second half for the German side.
An acrobatic volley from Robin van Persie, Rooney’s second and a goal from Antonio Valencia sealed David Moyes’ first win in the UEFA Champions League as well as a victorious start to Group A for the Premier League champions, despite Omer Toprak’s late consolation for the away side.
Tensions were high inside the stadium at kick-off after a less than impressive performance in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but United had the better of the first half. It was van Persie who could have opened the scoring after just 11 minutes, but the Dutchman fired just wide from 30 yards after a clever turn.
The striker had a hand in the home side’s next chance too, but Chris Smalling failed to convert from van Persie’s powerful free-kick. The cross should have been nodded in from six yards, but the defender took his eye off the ball and it rebounded off his shoulder onto the roof of the net. Leverkusen wouldn’t be so lucky in the 22nd minute as Rooney, who was impressive all night, rattled in an opener.
It was Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra and Shinji Kagawa who did well on the left with the French defender clipping in a cross that Rooney could volley in from ten yards. It was a good finish from the striker, but Leverkusen were unhappy that goal was allowed to stand as Valencia was impeding the goalkeeper from an offside position. It was a controversial decision and United were lucky to be ahead.
David Moyes’ side could have doubled their advantage with a minute to go until half-time, but a slight deflection denied Kagawa. Valencia did well to drive forward on the right before picking out Kagawa at the back post, but the Japanese international saw his goal-bound volley deflected inches wide by Rolfes. It was a good block, but United were desperately close to a 2-0 lead.
Perhaps annoyed at the controversial goal, Leverkusen were fired up at the start of the second half. Rio Ferdinand’s poor header allowed Sidney Sam to spin on the edge of the box, but the attacking midfielder’s powerful shot was well saved by David De Gea thanks to the goalkeeper’s good positioning.
Up the other end, Rooney wasted a fantastic opportunity to add to the lead. Toprak was caught in possession on the edge of his box and Rooney raced past Bernd Leno, but sent the ball wide from a tight angle with van Persie calling for a tap-in across the goal. It was a bad miss and bad choice by Rooney, who should have laid up his strike partner for an easy goal.
The miss proved to be a double whammy for the Red Devils as Leverkusen went up the other end to equalise in the 54th minute. It was Rolfes who let fly from the edge of the box and the ball took a slight whack off of Carrick’s left leg which gave De Gea no chance as it flew into the net. It was harsh on the United goalkeeper, but his side were not level for long.
Just five minutes after being pegged back, United retook the lead and it was a piece of class from van Persie. Valencia did the good work on the right wing as he delivered a powerful cross to the near post that the former Arsenal striker acrobatically volleyed at goal from ten yards. Leno should have saved it, but flapped at the shot and van Persie had his sixth United goal this season in as many appearances.
The 70th minute proved to be the history-making moment for Rooney who joined the 200 club at Old Trafford. De Gea’s long kick should have been headed away but a mix-up between Toprak and Emre Can allowed the ball to run through for Rooney, who made no mistake with a clever finish at the near post. The win was in sight for the Premier League side and it got better when Valencia added a fourth goal nine minutes later.
It was Rooney who had a big hand in it as he led a counter-attack and released Valencia on the right side with a good pass. The Ecuador international pierced the ball past Leno with a powerful low strike and Leverkusen were officially deflated.
Despite the losing situation, Sami Hyypia’s side did manage to pull a goal back in the 88th minute. Can’s corner was missed by De Gea’s punch and after Knut Reinhardt headed against the crossbar, Toprak was on hand to prod in and make the scoreline more competitive as United picked up the three points.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)